What is API discovery

API discovery is the process of cataloging all internal and third-party APIs used within an organization.

Learning Objectives

After reading this article you will be able to:

  • Learn what API discovery is
  • Understand the importance of API discovery
  • Compare different tools for API discovery

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What is API discovery?

API discovery is the process of cataloging all internal and third-party APIs used within an organization. An API is a set of rules that enable software application programs to communicate with other applications. API discovery searches for existing APIs that can fulfill specific functions. Imagine that Stacy is building something with LEGO blocks. There are a variety of standard blocks she can use, and there are also special blocks created by others that Stacy can use to make her new creation even better. APIs are like these special blocks and API discovery is the process of finding them. API discovery service helps developers avoid reinventing the wheel and redundant work, and build existing APIs into new applications.

Why is API discovery important?

API discovery is important for many reasons, from enhanced efficiency to faster time to market. Some key benefits include the following:

  • Efficient and accelerated application development. API discovery allows developers to find pre-existing and pre-built functionalities and services to easily integrate into their applications. This allows developers to save time and effort and accelerate the development cycle, thereby reducing the product’s time to market.
  • Access to external resources and services. Using API discovery, developers can connect new applications to external services (like geolocation services or social media integration) to enhance the range of its capabilities.
  • Compatibility with existing systems. Modern applications often need to interact with a variety of other software systems and platforms. API discovery allows developers to find APIs that are both compatible with external systems and internal networks, allowing seamless communication and interoperability between applications.
  • Shadow API discovery. A ‘shadow’ API refers to any third-party application programming interface (API) that has not been managed or secured by the organization using it. API discovery can help organizations discover what API endpoints they're working with — including those that may be risky or malicious.

What are examples of API discovery tools?

Developers can use a variety of tools to accelerate the API discovery process. Here are three of the most common:

  1. Third-party API directories and marketplaces. Similar to a virtual storefront for API softwares, API directories and marketplaces provide a large collection of APIs that can be easily filtered by specific criteria.
  2. API documentation platforms. Many API providers host their documentation on specific platforms, making it easy for developers to discover new APIs.
  3. Technology platforms. Technology-specific platforms (such as GitHub) or cloud service providers (like AWS, GCP, and Microsoft Azure) have their own API marketplaces.

What is Cloudflare API discovery?

Cloudflare API Gateway includes an API discovery feature that discovers, monitors, and secures all API endpoints. Requests are validated against an OpenAPI schema, which blocks nonconforming requests. Learn more about how Cloudflare API discovery works.